Happy Star Wars Day! If this is your first time clicking on The Mando Rewatch, my name is Nate, and over the past several weeks I have been revisiting The Mandalorian, starting from the very beginning. This week, I will be doing a deep dive into the key moments and thematic significance of “Chapter 7: The Reckoning.” These recaps are spoiler-heavy, and I am writing them under the assumption that you have not only seen this episode, but the rest of the series as well. It also helps if you have read my earlier reviews because I tend to circle back to previously established themes. So, go check those out if you haven’t already. With that out the way, let’s talk about Star Wars!
“The Reckoning” is written by Jon Favreau and directed by Deborah Chow, and it is easily one of the best episodes in the entire series thus far. Chow’s outstanding work on Chapters 3 and 7 has made many fans, myself included, extremely excited about the fact that she will be directing the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series. She is clearly very talented, and she seems to have a great understanding of how to successfully bring Star Wars to the small screen. This episode looks beautiful, it is suspenseful, very well-paced, with great action sequences, some really funny moments, along with some touching moments, and there is even an Imperial Troop Transporter! The only thing I don’t like about “Chapter 7” is that Kuill has to die. Yet, before he goes, the old Ugnaught drops many more pearls of wisdom for Mando…
According to Kuiil, “none will be free until the old ways are gone forever.” Within the context of this episode, Kuiil is simply referring to the Empire, but the fact that he uses the word “ways” is significant. Afterall, the entire series has been about Mando slowly changing from his old ways, which is in direct contrast to his mantra of “This is the Way.” Furthermore, we established last week that Mando himself is not free – he is a prisoner inside his own armour. As such, Kuiil’s quote comes to represent one of the major underlying themes of the series. And, I believe that theme ties into the title of this episode – “The Reckoning.” Another clever title that can be interpreted in multiple ways. On one level, this title refers to Mando’s comeuppance for taking Grogu and running off. However, from a certain point of view, this title is about Mando’s reckoning with himself, and indeed his own essential nature. The looming question of what it means to be a Mandalorian continues to hang over him. He struggles with the concept, and wonders if it is truly possible for him to change from what he thought he was originally supposed to be. Kuiil’s reprogramming of IG-11 becomes integral to this theme. For, as we already know, Mando hates droids, due to the trauma inflicted upon him as a child during the Clone Wars. He strongly believes that IG-11 was created with one purpose, and one purpose only – to kill. Initially, he refuses to conceive of the possibility that the droid is capable of changing its intrinsic nature. Yet, Kuiil informs Mando that “reconstruction was difficult, but not impossible.” In other words, change is hard. To be clear, this scene isn’t just about the droid. There are many levels to this. Mando’s hatred and fear of droids is partially what led him to hide himself away inside his armour. Droids helped forge Mando into the Mandalorian that he is, and the Mandalorian that he thought he was supposed to be. At the same time, he now sees a physical representation of his traumatic past has become capable of completely changing what he thought was its essential nature. Consequently, Mando surely begins to realize that if the droid can change, then maybe he can change too. That change extends beyond his personal feelings and opinions about droids, and actually it becomes more of an existential crisis for him. The question of what it means to be a Mandalorian still remains, and he may be even further from the answer than he once thought. It is worth noting at this time that another definition for the word “reckoning” simply refers to a person’s view, opinion, or judgement. And, clearly, the events of this episode call Mando’s previous judgement into question. As Obi-Wan Kenobi says in Return of the Jedi, “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Kuiil is The Mandalorian equivalent to Obi-Wan, and by telling Mando that “none will be free until the old ways are gone forever” (after reprogramming a murder bot into a helpful servant), Kuiil is inadvertantly saying that it is time to look at things from a different point of view, and to embrace a new Way.
The central figure behind this new Way is Grogu, and Kuiil is able to indirectly teach Mando how to become a better father-figure to the child by explaining the reprogramming of IG-11. Kuiil tells Mando that “droids are not good or bad. They are neutral reflections of those who imprint them.” He says that it requires repetition, and that he “spent day after day reinforcing its development with patience and affirmation.” As the father of two young daughters, that sounds alot like parental advice to me. Kuiil is not just talking about droids anymore. Accordingly, the kindness involved in IG-11’s reprogramming can naturally be contrasted with how Mando has been taking care of the child. Ultimately, this leads one to question what sort of imprint Mando is leaving on Grogu throughout their journey together. Like IG-11, Grogu is a clean slate, and his purity will lead him to become a “neutral reflection” of Mando. This is highlighted by the scene when Grogu Force-chokes Cara Dune while she and Mando are having a friendly arm wrestling match. Grogu immediately thinks she is an enemy, so he responds the same way that Mando would respond to an enemy – with violence. It may seem worrying that Grogu is able to embrace a dark side power so quickly, but that doesn’t make him evil. Afterall, later in the episode Grogu calls upon the light side of the Force by healing Greef Karga’s potentially fatal wound. Just as “droids are not good or bad,” the use of both the light and the dark side of the Force signifies the innocence of Grogu. He has not chosen a path yet, he is simply responding to situations with what he has seen in his upbringing. The child has witnessed a lot of violence since Mando came into his life, and it seems only natural for him to assist Mando with violence. At the same time, the selflessness of Mando, in choosing to save Grogu in the first place, has been imprinted on the child as well. That is why Grogu commits a selfless act of his own, when he heals Greef. Indeed, Grogu is inarguably a neutral reflection of Mando, and the choices Mando makes henceforth could very well have an influence on the path of the Force that Grogu eventually chooses. Therefore, the wisdom of Kuiil, as demonstrated in his reprogramming of IG-11, is integral to the character growth of Mando – not only in his relationship with himself, or droids, but most importantly, with Grogu. The son saves the father, the father saves the son. That is what Star Wars has always been about – family.
So, celebrate Star Wars Day with your family today, and May the 4th be with you!
I have spoken,